INTO THE FRAY Palestine: What if the Six-Day War never took place?

By Martin Sherman, IISS

If the “West Bank” was part of the “Hashemite Kingdom” up to 1967, how did it suddenly become the Palestinians’ long-yearned-for homeland which, up until then, they were submissively willing to cede to an alien potentate?

Not since the time of Dr. Goebels [Head of the Nazi Propaganda Machine] has there ever been a case in which continual repetition of a lie has born such great fruits…Of all the Palestinian lies, there is no lie greater or more crushing than that which calls for the establishment of a separate Palestinian state in the West Bank…From “Palestinian Lies” in Ha’aretz, 30-7-76, by former far-Left Meretz Education Minister, Prof. Amnon Rubinstein.

As the new elections approach, the “Palestinian problem” is once again likely to dominate much of the inter-(and intra-) party debate. In many ways this debate is entirely superfluous. After all, a simple mental experiment will suffice to strip away the veil of mendacity shrouding the Palestinian grievances against Israel.

Imagine for a moment… 

To demonstrate this, imagine for a moment that the 1967 Six Day War, in which several Arab armies marshalled their forces with the undisguised intention to annihilate Israel, never took place. Imagine that Israel had not been compelled to launch a preemptive strike in self-defense to thwart the Arabs’ openly proclaimed aim of total genocide that resulted in it taking over Judea-Samaria (a.k.a. the “West Bank”)—which the Palestinians now contend is their long-yearned for homeland.

Then ask yourself: If that war had not occurred, where would “Palestine” be?

After all, but for this war, the “West Bank” would not have fallen under Israeli administration. Surely then, the Palestinians would have no grievances against the Jewish state and there would be no charges of Israel “occupying Palestinian lands” and dispossessing the “Palestinians” from their “homeland”.

Sadly, this is not the case. Charges of “occupation” of Palestinian land and dispossession of the Palestinians were widespread long before Israel had control of a square inch of the “West Bank.”

“We shall enter Palestine with its soil …saturated in blood” 

Indeed, as early as March 8, 1965, over two years before the Six-Day War, Gamal Abdel Nasser, president of Egypt, proclaimed his bloodcurdling intent: “We shall not enter Palestine with its soil covered in sand, we shall enter it with its soil saturated in blood”.

But what “Palestine” was he referring to? It certainly was not the “West Bank” and Gaza, which were under Jordanian and Egyptian rule respectively. It could only be the territory within the pre-1967 borders of Israel—the very borders to which Israel is being pressured to return in order to ensure…peace.

Similarly savage sentiments were expressed by Ahmad Shukeiri, Yasser Arafat’s predecessor as chairman of the PLO. Indeed, only days prior to the outbreak of the Six-Day War, in a somewhat premature flush of triumph, he crowed: “D Day is approaching. The Arabs have waited 19 years for this and will not flinch from the war of liberation…

Ominously, he threatened: “This is a fight for the homeland–it is either us or the Israelis. There is no middle road … We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants and as for the survivors—if there are any— the boats are ready to deport them.”

An ephemeral “homeland

Here again, Shukeiri’s use of the words “liberation” and “homeland” is revealing…and damning for current Palestinian claims.

After all, they clearly did not apply to the “West Bank” or the Gaza Strip, since both were under Arab rule and certainly not considered the “homeland” towards which Palestinian “liberation” efforts were directed.

The true significance of these terms emerges with stark clarity from the text of the original version of the Palestinian National Charter — formulated in 1964, a full three years before the “West Bank” fell under Israeli administration.

In it, Article 16 states: “The liberation of Palestine… [is] necessitated by the demands of self-defense” and “the Palestinian people look forward to [international] support… in restoring the legitimate situation to Palestine… and enabling its people to exercise national sovereignty and freedom.”

But Article 24 stipulates precisely what was not included in the “homeland” of “Palestine” and where sovereignty was not sought to be exercised. Indeed, it unequivocally forswears Palestinian claims to “any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Gaza.”

It is difficult to imagine a more authoritative source for exposing as bogus the Palestinian claim that the “West Bank” and Gaza comprise their “ancient homeland.”

An anomalous “nation”?

This, of course, creates the remarkably anomalous situation we have today.

On the one hand, the Palestinians profess that they are willing to forego all the territory they claimed as their pre-1967 “homeland”, but on the other, obdurately demand for their post-1967 “homeland” a completely different territory, which they explicitly excluded from their previous homeland demands.

It would be difficult to find any historical precedent of such a dramatic metamorphosis of an envisioned “homeland”, in which there is not an overlap of a single square inch between the territory originally claimed and that claimed only a few years later.

This is not a trivial matter. For a sense of Nationalism is driven by a sense of belonging, inextricably associated with geographical sites in the homeland, where great events took place that generated a distinct national historical memory and consequent coherent national identity.

But if such nation-generating sites were located in pre-1967 Palestine, what such sites could there possibly be in post-1967 Palestine that could generate a sense of nationhood—since the Palestinians themselves conceded that, up to 1967, it did not constitute part of their homeland? Indeed, if the “West Bank” was part of the “Hashemite Kingdom” up to 1967, how did it suddenly become the Palestinians long-yeaned-for homeland which, up until then, they were so willing to cede submissively to an alien potentate.

“Liberation of the homeland” means “annihilation of Israel”

Clearly then, the aspirations of the Palestinians have nothing to do with their attachment to the land, but everything to do with the detachment of Jews from the land—i.e. driving the Jews from any portion of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Indeed, even within the pre-1967 lines, long before today’s alleged “root causes of the conflict” (.i.e. “occupation” and “settlements”) were part of the discourse, much less facts on the ground, Israel was condemned as a colonial, fascist, expansionist power.

According to Article 19: “Zionism is a colonialist movement in its inception, aggressive and expansionist in its goal, racist in its configurations, and fascist in its means and aims. Israel, in its capacity as the spearhead of this destructive movement and as the pillar of colonialism, is a permanent source of tension and turmoil in the Middle East.”

The pre-1967 implication is clear. To remove enduring “tension and turmoil” in the region, their “source” — Israel — must be removed.

Clearly then, the only conceivable “plain-English” translation for the “liberation of the homeland” must be the “annihilation of Israel.”

Denying all ties between Jews & “Palestine”

The 1964 Palestinian National Covenant was replaced by a 1968 version, which, in the guise of “the liberation of Palestine,” continued to advocate the destruction of Israel as a necessary precursor for Mideast peace —in blatantly explicit terms.

Article 22 states that the “liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence and will contribute to the establishment of peace in the Middle East.”

Any thoughts that this reference was to the post-1967 “occupied territories” is quickly dispelled by Article 19, which declares: “The partition of Palestine in 1947, and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time…

Article 20 delves even further back into history — to 1917 — to deny the validity of Jewish statehood in any portion of the Holy Land: “The Balfour Declaration, the Palestine Mandate System, and all that has been based on them are considered null and void. The claims of historic and spiritual ties between Jews and Palestine are not in agreement with the facts of history and the conception of what constitutes statehood.”

“Palestine” is where the Jews are

 So, going back to our mental experiment and the original question it posed: If the 1967 Six-Day War had never taken place and the “West Bank” had remained under the rule of the Hashemite Kingdom, where would “Palestine” be?

The inevitable answer would be: Wherever the Jews are …

Is it too much to hope that simple truths will determine attitudes in the next election?

Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

December 28, 2018 | 7 Comments » | 1,022 views

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7 Comments / 7 Comments

  1. True the now called Palestinians have always refused the presence of the Jews or any Jewish rule any part of Israel or Palestine. It is not about borders or there location.

    They were attacking the Jews long before the State of Israel was reestablished in 1948. The riots of 1929 were they drove the Jews out Hebron with murders. The also rioted in Safed and Jerusalem then. They refused an offer of partition of the land in the 1930s.

    Their goal was and is the elimination of Israel. There is no negotiation with a people who want to destroy you.

  2. the Palestine Mandate System, and all that has been based on them are considered null and void.

    That’s essentially the argument that Saddam Hussein used to invade Kuwait and we saw how the world responded to it. Hardly a coincidence that his only supporters were the palestinians.

    Sadly, logic and consistency seem to have no place in the arab-Israeli conflict.

  3. I understand and agree with Dr. Sherman’s point, which is that Palestinian-Arab “nationalism” is largely fictitious. Anti-Israelism, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are the only real Palestinian-Arab ideologies, not Palestinian nationalism. To the extent that nationalist feelings exist among Palestinian Arabs, it is either pan-Arab or Pan-Islmist in character, not Palestinian.

    However, Dr. Sherman’s implication that the “Six-day” War might never have taken place is inaccurate and misleading. THe entire Arab bloc of states was determined to attack Israel in 1967, regardless of what territory the PLO organization, which they had set up for propagands purposes, claimed as Palestinian territory. It is possible, however, that the war might have taken more tha six days, and had a very dfferent outcome, one not favorable to Israel, if israel had not initiated a preemptive strike on June 4, 1967. The relevant “counterfactual” speculation is whether or not a Palestinian state would have emerged, or a Palestinian Liberation would have continued to exist, if the Arab states had succeeded in their goal of annihilating Israel. My guess is “no.” The Arab states would have partitioned conquered Israeli territory among themselves while murdering or at least evicting the Jewish population. The PLO would have been dismantled. Most Palestinian-Arabs would have raised no objection to these actions by the Arab governments, and “Palestinian” nationalism would have disappeared.

  4. @ adamdalgliesh:
    As Martin said that was not his point at all. It is that the Pals want to get rid of the Jews period, wherever they are! When the Jews were NOT in the West Bank or Gaza the now called Pals said they belonged to Egypt and Jordan as per PLO Charter!

  5. @ ms: To me, at any rate, it seems that some malicious souls might misrepresent your intions when you wrote, “What if the Six-day War Never Took Place,” as support for their long-standing but false claim that Israel could have avoided fighting the war, and hence was the aggressor. I of course realize that that was very far from being your intention. But I have seen similar statements by Israeli generals after the war was won being twisted in this way by pro-Arab propagandists.

  6. @ adamdalgliesh:
    I wonder how they could reach such an interpretation.

    After all, I did write that:

    the 1967 Six Day War, in which several Arab armies marshalled their forces with the undisguised intention to annihilate Israel, …

    . and

    Imagine that Israel had not been compelled to launch a preemptive strike in self-defense to thwart the Arabs’ openly proclaimed aim of total genocide

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